2008 - %3, July

McCain Denies Ever Saying He Lacks Expertise on Economy

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 12:56 PM EDT

John McCain is a honest dude. Sure, he flip-flops on stuff (see the bottom of this post), but he utters truths that a lot of other politicians wouldn't. A perfect example is his statement from December 2007: "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." He's said similar things as well.

Problem is, uttering truths doesn't help you run for president. (Shocker, right? Is it a sign of a fundamental idealism or innocence that writing that statement genuinely upset me?) So now McCain is not just insisting that he does have economic expertise, he's actually denying that he said the statement in question. Think Progress has the depressing, not-very-honest details. Running for president makes messes of good men.

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Report: Interrogation Instructors at Gitmo Taught Communist Tactics from 1950s

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 11:20 AM EDT

Really? When the military was copying old communist torture tactics verbatim, no one thought, Hey, this doesn't seem like a very American way of doing things?

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

One More Clinton Campaign Post-Mortem: No Hierarchy, No Trust, No Comity

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 10:49 AM EDT

There's a new Vanity Fair article on the squabblings of Hillary Clinton's key campaign advisers. As you would expect, it feels about two months out of date, but it's still well-reported. The dysfunction described — some of the folks at the top of the Clinton campaign really couldn't stand each other — really makes you wonder how the campaign ran at all. Here's an excerpt, for short-term nostalgia's sake:

It was impossible to find anyone who could lay out the hierarchy of Hillary's campaign. Almost everybody had veto power, but no one could initiate. The group was about as effective as the U.N. Security Council. After Super Tuesday and Obama's remarkable run of February victories, it was clear their arrogantly defended strategies had failed. They became consumed with trading personal invective, hurling expletives, and trashing one another in print.
[Mark] Penn and [Harold] Ickes especially hated each other. Penn was a protégé of the most poisonous character in the Clinton White House, pollster Dick Morris. Leon Panetta, who had battled against Morris's morally empty advice in the '96 campaign, compared Penn to Karl Rove and saw Hillary's dependence on Penn as an ominous sign. "Morris had no lines between right and wrong," says Panetta. "There are moments when [the Clintons] want to hear from the dark side because that may be the only way to win.… Losing is not part of their vocabulary. They know no limits when it comes to the energy and tactics they will use—no matter how distasteful."

Everyone takes digs at everyone in the piece. It's an ugly scene, and it undercuts the claims of greater executive management skills — "Think about the [election] as a hiring decision!" HRC used to say — that Clinton made when running against Obama.

The Dust-Off: The Feelies

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 6:38 PM EDT

mojo-photo-feelies.jpgThe New York Times today celebrates the return of the Feelies, the legendary New Jersey band whose minimal, focused strumming influenced bands from R.E.M. to Sonic Youth. The Feelies are opening for der Yoof at a free show in Battery Park this Friday night (which doesn't sound like any fun at all, arrrgh!), and the Times article is appropriately effusive, calling the band a "vivid apparition," and quoting various musical luminaries who give them props. But despite their influence, the band never really had mainstream success, and it seems like they're below the radar of most of today's kids. Unbelievably, their brilliant 1980 LP Crazy Rhythms isn't even on iTunes. Well, dammit, I'm getting out my scratchy old vinyl and putting it on the record player.

Boots Riley: F Bombs Not Cool in Norfolk

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 6:21 PM EDT

boots-180.jpgAfter dropping some variation of the F word at a live performance in Virginia with Galactic recently, Boots Riley, front man for Oakland's hip-hop/funk group The Coup, got slapped with abusive language charges from local police.

Riley, who Mother Jones profiled in our November/December 2007 issue, claimed the charges were racially motivated, part of a backlash from a recent Afr'Am Festival in Norfolk, at which gospel and R&B performances allegedly generated noise complaints.

The incident is not the first like it for Boots:

Forecast for Solar: Cloudy

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 6:06 PM EDT

Solar_energy_power_266094_l.jpgNow that the Bureau of Land Management is deferring solar projects on public land, the forecast for solar energy seems a bit cloudy. What happened?

Just over a year ago, the BLM was actively encouraging solar projects to be shuttled through in a "timely manner." Then it teamed up with the Department of Energy "to assess the environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with solar energy development."

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How to Think about Immunity

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 5:49 PM EDT

As has been widely reported, the House's new FISA bill probably won't be up for a vote in the Senate until after the July 4th holiday. But the bill continues to be subjected to a great deal of criticism on the left for its telecom immunity and surveillance provisions.

And for good reason! The bill allows for bulk collection of data on American citizens without warrants or oversight of almost any kind, and, for all intents and purposes, it requires civil lawsuits against the telecommunications companies that participated in President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program to be thrown out of court. This, many would like us to believe, is some sort of compromise.

What is Music's "Modern Era"?

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 5:39 PM EDT

mojo-photo-modernera.jpgIn the midst of trying to decide where to put Vampire Weekend on my Top Ten of 2008 So Far, I stumbled across a set of more ambitious charts: Entertainment Weekly's attempts to rank the best stuff of the last 25 years. Dubbing their charts "The New Classics," they disqualified anything born before 1983, and it makes for an interesting look back at recent history. Their Top 100 album chart is about half-right, with some major omissions, but also some intriguing breaks with the canon. Here's their top ten:

The Yoo-Sands Controversy

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 3:11 PM EDT

Yesterday, I reported on former deputy Attorney General (and torture memoranda author) John Yoo's none-too-subtle attempt to discredit critic and author Philippe Sands by suggesting he'd lied to a House subcommittee. As an attempt to clear the air, Sands has written a letter to John Yoo, which he's also submitted for the congressional record, and I've obtained a copy. The text appears below.

Iran to Suspend Uranium Enrichment for Six Weeks?

| Tue Jul. 1, 2008 2:35 PM EDT

An Iranian American academic writes that an Iranian news site is reporting that Iran has decided to suspend uranium enrichment, "as a goodwill gesture," for a period of six weeks. "This action will be taken in return for no further sanctions, and resumption of negotiations with the 5+1 group during this period based on the latest proposed package." (Here's the source of the report, he says).

If true that Iran has accepted the West's "suspension for suspension" proposal, as former US Iran envoy Nick Burns has called it, it would conceivably make way for the US to join international talks with Iran over its nuclear program. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice has said repeatedly that Washington would be willing to talk directly with Iran if Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment program. It's a position that the State Department reiterated as recently as yesterday.

I am trying to confirm whether the Iranian report is accurate.

Iranian and American sources warn that more information is needed.

More details if they become available.

Update: More hints Iran is considering trying to get to negotiations.

Thursday Update: A more detailed suggestion of the anticipated potential Iranian response to the latest P5+1/Javier Solana offer is available here:

The 5+1 proposal to Iran proposes a "pre-negotiation" phase at which stage there would be a "freeze for freeze", i.e. Iran would not add any new centrifuges and the 5+1 would not introduce any new sanctions. In this phase, Iran would negotiate with 5+1 minus the US to prepare the grounds for full-fledged negotiations which would then include the US. In this phase, Iran can also comment on the agenda of the negotiations and introduce new topics (eg. Tehran could insist that the issue of an uranium enrichment consortium on Iranian soil be discussed with high priority). Iran can also focus on the "commonalities of the two proposals" as Dr. Mottaki has underlined a few times. Once the two sides agree to enter full-fledged negotiations including the US at the table, then Iran will have to suspend enrichment and the 5+1 will lift the existing UN sanctions.